Welcome to the jacked-in future we were promised

Yesterday, I spent six hours in the car with the nephew and the niece (aged 14 and 11; returning them to their parents). It was a very quiet ride (well, except for my music playing on the car radio, the nephew’s music playing in his earbuds, and the niece’s videos playing hers, and her occasional laughter). And I have to credit myself: my music was the last to turn on, they were plugged in before we’d pulled away from the curb. (I waited, in case they were interested in interacting with me while I drove.)

I mused on the situation, thinking back to the early days of cyberpunk, when we assumed people would jack in to the internet and completely tune out the real world. The kids weren’t on the internet (or maybe they were; I couldn’t see their screens, since I was driving), but I realized we have actually arrived in that future: jacked in, interacting with people whose bodies are distant (or simply spending time in their own heads, their own worlds, and not interacting at all), and having almost no connection with the people physically near them.

And then, today, I read an article on how school is different today than it was in the past. One of the screens of the click-bait article was that kids are much more comfortable texting, tweeting, instant messaging, whatever-social-media-ing with each other than talking, even when sitting right next to each other. (Although—counterpoint: the niece is in another room in the house with a friend right now. The only tech they’re using is a video gaming console they’re both playing, but they are definitely talking to each other in meatspace.)

No judgment; just an observation that we really have arrived in a science fictionally predicted future. Not precisely what we expected, but pretty darn close. Echoes of that Comic-Con panel I was on two weeks ago.

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